12 Things We Keep Getting Wrong When We Think About History

Aileen
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History is a subject that has fascinated humans for centuries. From ancient civilizations to modern-day events, studying history allows us to understand our past and how it has shaped our present.

However, despite its importance, there are certain misconceptions and misunderstandings that people often have when it comes to history. Here are the 12 common things that people get wrong when they think about history:

Oversimplifying History

12 Things We Keep Getting Wrong When We Think About History
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One of the biggest mistakes we make when thinking about history is oversimplification. We often try to fit complex events and ideas into neat, easy-to-understand narratives that don’t accurately reflect what happened.

As historian James Loewen puts it, “History textbooks are full of simplifications that make us feel good about ourselves.” This oversimplification can lead to a distorted view of history and prevent us from fully understanding the complexities of our past.

Ignoring Diverse Perspectives

12 Things We Keep Getting Wrong When We Think About History
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When we think about history, we tend to focus on the dominant narrative and ignore the perspectives of marginalized groups. This results in a one-sided view of history that fails to capture the experiences and contributions of diverse communities.

As historian Mary Beard states, “History is always written by the winners… and it’s only in recent years that we’ve begun to question that.” It is essential to acknowledge and include the perspectives of all groups when studying history.

Overlooking Continuity

12 Things We Keep Getting Wrong When We Think About History
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We often think of history as a series of distinct events separated by periods. However, this overlooks the continuity of history and how events are connected.

Historian David Christian explains, “History is a single story, told in many different ways.” Understanding the interconnectedness of historical events and how they shape each other is essential.

Neglecting the Role of Individuals

12 Things We Keep Getting Wrong When We Think About History
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While societal forces and structures significantly shape history, we should not overlook the impact of individual actions and decisions.

As historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. notes, “History is the memory of states… but it is individuals who make history.” Individuals have the power to shape events and influence the course of history.

Focusing on Famous Figures

12 Things We Keep Getting Wrong When We Think About History
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When we think about history, we often focus on famous figures and their accomplishments. While these individuals may have played an essential role in history, they do not tell the whole story.

As historian James W. Loewen states, “History is about the masses… yet we continue to idolize individuals as if they were the only ones that matter.” It is essential to recognize the contributions of everyday people and their impact on history.

Dismissing Oral Histories

12 Things We Keep Getting Wrong When We Think About History
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Written records and documents are often seen as the most reliable sources of history. However, this dismisses the value of oral histories passed down through generations.

As Native American scholar Jack Forbes notes, “The Western bias toward written records is a flaw that can lead to distortions.” Oral histories provide unique perspectives and should not be disregarded in understanding history.

Neglecting Global/ Perspectives

12 Things We Keep Getting Wrong When We Think About History
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History is often taught from a Eurocentric perspective, focusing on Western events and achievements. This neglects the contributions and perspectives of non-Western cultures and societies.

Historian George MacLeod notes, “The study of history must become global to understand the complexities of our world.” It is essential to consider multiple perspectives when studying history.

Forgetting Local Histories

12 Things We Keep Getting Wrong When We Think About History
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Similarly, we often overlook the histories of local communities and their impact on more significant historical events.

As historian David Sharp notes, “Local history helps us to understand national and international events more fully.” Local histories provide a deeper understanding of how individuals and communities played a role in shaping history.

“History is objective and unbiased.”

12 Things We Keep Getting Wrong When We Think About History
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Many people believe history is factual and objective, but this ignores the inherent biases of those recording and interpreting historical events.

As historian Jill Lepore stated, “History isn’t so much what happened as who tells the story.” Historians cannot wholly remove their perspectives, biases, and values from their work.

Ignoring Historical Context

12 Things We Keep Getting Wrong When We Think About History
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To fully understand historical events, we must consider the context in which they occurred. Failing to do so can lead to misconceptions and inaccuracies.

As historian Edward Ayers notes, “History helps us understand how things change over time… and reminds us that our beliefs are always open to revision.” Context is crucial in understanding the complexities of history.

“History is linear and progressive.”

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The idea that history moves forward linearly and progressively has been challenged by many historians. While advances have certainly been made in various areas, this view ignores the cyclical nature of history and the potential for regressions.

As historian Arnold Toynbee stated, “There is no inevitability in history, only consequences.” Many factors often influence historical events, and predicting the future based on a linear view of progress is not always accurate.

Neglecting Personal Connection

12 Things We Keep Getting Wrong When We Think About History
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Finally, we often fail to make a personal connection to history, viewing it as something distant and irrelevant to our own lives. However, history is the story of humanity and has shaped who we are today.

As historian David Thelen states, “The most important reason for studying history is that it helps us understand ourselves.” Making a personal connection to history can deepen our understanding and appreciation for its significance.

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Author

  • Aileen

    Aileen adds a melodic tone to the Frenz Hub writing team, with her background in agricultural economics and hobbies like singing, reading, swimming, and traveling, enriching her writing with diverse perspectives.

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